x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Yemen flood toll increases

At least 49 people were killed in floods and hundreds are missing after a tropical storm slammed into the country.

Yemenis ready to rescue a foreign tourist in a vehicle stranded in flood waters in the old sector of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Yemenis ready to rescue a foreign tourist in a vehicle stranded in flood waters in the old sector of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

SHIBAM, Yemen // At least 49 people were killed when floods swept through Southern Yemen after a tropical storm slammed into the country, a senior police official has said. Hamid el-Kharashi, a police chief in the southern province of Hadramut, said the death toll is expected to rise as scores of people are still missing and hundreds of families are homeless or trapped by the rising waters. More than 638 houses have been demolished by the flash floods in Hadramut alone, he added. The storm formed out in the Indian Ocean earlier in the week and headed north, hitting Yemen's remote Hadramut province on Thursday. An Associated Press reporter in the historic city of Shibam watched a two-story mud brick house disintegrate in front of him. "The house was flooded so my family and 16 others slept with relatives nearby," said Ahmed Salam as he watched his home collapse. They evacuated the night before as rushing waters began to eat away at the foundation. Damage has been extensive throughout the Hadramut because most homes are made of mud brick. In Shibam, a Unesco world heritage site, the towering 16th century mud brick buildings are collapsing from the unfamiliar downpour and ensuing flash floods. Shibam's tall mud brick houses earned it the name of "the Manhattan of the desert". A 60-year-old farmer Karam Basalamah blamed local government corruption for exacerbating the damage by allowing illegal building in flood prone areas. "Local officials authorised the building of houses in the flood plain," he said. "Now waters are diverted into the town, get trapped inside houses and cause them to collapse." The province of Mouhra, sandwiched between Hadramut and the border with Oman to the north-east, was affected as well. On Friday, Mouhra deputy governor, Salem Numier, said floods have cut off main roads, caused power outages. There was also a shortage in medicine and food supplies, he said. Hadramut is Yemen's largest province that occupies a third of the country. Yemen's national weather centre said the storm was likely to continue through Saturday and warned fishermen and beach visitors of five metre high waves. The ambassador for Yemen to the UAE praised Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for providing emergency relief assistance to flood victims in devastated parts of the country. Abdullah Hussein al Dafae said the efforts would help to alleviate the suffering of Yeminis affected by the flooding according to a statement to WAM, the government news agency. *AP / WAM